The Minnesota House of Representatives candidates addressed the League of Women Voters – Minnetonka, Eden Prairie, Hopkins (LWV MEPH) at a forum at the Eden Prairie City Center on Thursday, October 1, 2020.
House District 48A (covering Eden Prairie north of Hwy. 5 into southern Minnetonka) candidates are incumbent Laurie Pryor (D) and Eric Wessel (R).
House District 48B (covering Eden Prairie south of Hwy. 5 to the Minnesota River) candidates are incumbent Carlie Kotyza-Witthun (D) and Holly Link (R).
The forum opened with 2-minute opening statements, which were followed by 1-minute questions submitted by the public.
Carlie Kotyza-Witthuhn, in her first term serving 48B, sits on the Minnesota Commerce Committee, the Education Finance Committee and is the vice chair of the early Childhood Finance and Policy Committee. In the Eden Prairie Little Eagles preschool program, Kotyza-Witthuhn sits on the Advisory Committee.
Kotyza-Witthuhn and her husband are 10-year Eden Prairie residents and have four children, three of whom attend Eden Prairie schools.
Holly Link, candidate for 48B, has lived in Eden Prairie for 22 years and is a former Eden Prairie School Board member. She is a Ph.D. candidate in educational administration; she hopes to use her experience to ensure locally controlled and funded education to provide the same opportunities that her children had.
Link has owned and operated two small businesses and she is concerned about high taxes and regulation.
Laurie Pryor and her husband have lived in the district for 30 years. Their three children and seven grandchildren live nearby. She is in her second term of serving House District 48A.
She has been connecting with her constituents on the phone, and believes she knows their concerns, which are among her priorities: a good education for every child, and a strong economy that works for all of us. She stressed we have to promote safe and healthy communities.
Eric Wessels, candidate for 48A, has lived in Eden Prairie for 15 years. He works as a chiropractic physician.
Wessels likens government to the treatment of illness to find a cure. He said he believes that the best legislator is an idle one–not trying to fix one thing that isn’t broken.
Biggest Issues 48 is facing
Pryor said she believes the major issues are education quality, the environment, fairness and dealing with the opportunity gaps, but above all, she said, is that she hears that people want strong leadership in dealing with the pandemic. People want to know we will survive this together and build back better in the future.
Wessels stated he sees the top issues to be public safety and strong police funding to restore and maintain law and order, while holding those agencies accountable. He also cites: public health and safety, having businesses open, using CDC guidelines, having parents going back to work and not scrape by on the unemployment they have been given. Restoring formal education will be a boost to the public’s morale, he said
Link answered that her two issues are safety and a thriving economy. She wants to get businesses up and running again so people can have the lifestyle they are used to having, making sure they are safe.
Kotyza -Witthuhn said she has heard from constituents about climate change, education and child care, especially dealing with the pandemic. The legislature provided $30 million grant funding so that our first responders could have childcare.
Link said she is going to have to look at the state budget and see what our priorities are and added that she believes numerous town hall meetings are necessary g to help make those decisions. She stated she believes regulations and taxes should not be increased because people are struggling right now.
Kotyza-Witthuhn stated that she believes Minnesota has been prudent and planful, budgeting for emergencies.There was a $6 billion deficit in 2010; the state emerged from it with a fully funded all-day kindergarten program, she said. We do have difficult decisions before us, she said, adding that her priorities are for seniors and working families. She will look at the budget line by line. She advocates for PPE, mental health and early childhood learning.
Wessel said he believes the state should run a short-term deficit. He would lower taxes. He believes the government should run like the private sector and do an overall 1 percent cut. He suggests that the biggest expenditures–education and human services–should be audited for a bloated bureaucracy, and said he believes we need to get by with less.
Pryor said that under Governor Mark Dayton the legislature set aside a rainy-day fund and right now it is raining. We need to tap into that fund, she said, adding that she thinks the budget should be examined in detail.
School Choice and Charter Schools and funding
Wessels stated that he believes in school choice. He suggested that if parents can select their children’s schools, the tax dollars will follow. The legislature will have to make some hard decisions about under-performing schools, he said.
Pryor has served on the Educational Policy and the K-12 Education Finance Committees. She stated that school choice is one of the principles that the committee works with. School choice is one of many ways Minnesota supports a private school model. She said we are not funding our schools to the level that they need, particularly in the area of special education. The federal government has left behind the public schools, especially in the area of special education. Minnesota has not been able to pick up the slack.
Link said that her children attended private schools until high school because they were not sure about the public schools. She thinks it should be the parents’ choice to decide what is best for their children.
Koytza-Witthuhn said she thinks that open enrollment is part of Minnesota’s rich history and that the needs of each individual child is a priority. She said she believes in fully funding our schools and supporting our teachers.
COVID 19 and the legislative involvement
Wessels said he believes the governor needs to engage with the Republicans. He wants the state to get back to business.
Pryor said she believes the legislature has been involved with decisions in funding for the pandemic, turning the responsibility for speedy distribution then referred to executive departments. The legislature has and will continue to be involved, she said
Link said she thinks that the governor has overstepped his authority. She said she thinks there has been a monologue instead of a dialogue in the state.
Kotyza-Witthuhn said the legislature urgently reprioritized to make the health and safety of Minnesotans the primary focus. The legislature redirected $300 million to the COVID-19 fund to make sure hospitals and front-line workers had what they needed. Carlie stated she was the co-author of the bill for $60 million for the small business and jobs fund.
The candidate forums will be rebroadcast several times each week on city cable channels and available on-demand at edenprairie.org/CityTV leading up to Election Day.